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Microplastics in sea significantly reduce growth of microalgae – study

All species analysed “suffered a considerable loss in biomass production”

The presence of microplastics in the sea has been found to have “significant influence” on the growth and production of microalgae – species invisible to the naked eye, but on which the balance of the environment and ecosystems depend.

This is the bottom line coming out of a recent study by researchers from the Interdisciplinary Centre for Marine and Environmental Research of the University of Porto (CIIMAR), and focused on microalgae used by industry.

Although impacts vary according to types of microalgae, all species analysed in the study “suffered a considerable loss” in biomass production.

Microalgae are important organisms for the balance of the environment and ecosystems, as well as for various industries that use them as raw material, explains Lusa today.

The research, developed as part of a master’s degree, sought to examine how the presence of microplastics in water affects the biomass production of several species of microalgae used in industry.

The study showed that the reduction in biomass production can reach 50%, which can put the economic viability of the sector at risk. It stands as a “significant alert to the community in general”, says CIIMAR.

Nereida Cordeiro, study coordinator, calls the results “alarming”, stressing the topic “deserves immediate attention and action to minimise the potential damage” of microplastics”.

In this sense, researchers have begun working on methods to allow the decontamination of water used in industry. “But laboratory studies alone are insufficient,” says CIIMAR, arguing it is necessary to “extend research” to an industrial scale (…)” to understand exactly “the molecular mechanisms” that are adversely affecting microalgae.

Source material: LUSA

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